Spirituality in Business

More business people are becoming comfortable using the word “spirituality” in the work environment. The old thinking that it means “religion”, which can invoke fears of dogmatism and proselytizing in the workplace, is being replaced with ideas of meditation, mindfulness and super-consciousness. 

Whilst religion is an important part of many people’s lives, spirituality in the broader sense is more about the human spirit. It encompasses love, compassion, patience, forgiveness, a sense of harmony with our universe and moves toward a transcendent reality (whatever name we give it).

In past years colleagues, who were highly evolved emotionally and spiritually were afraid to use the word ‘spirituality’! This is still true in many cases, but these days words like ‘Intuition’ are common place. Creativity. Right-brained thinking.  Even ‘Consciousness’ and ‘transcendent reality’. If you haven’t stopped reading already, that shows you are one of the more open-minded modern people who are intrigued by the new sense of openly talking about spirituality in the Western world.

My mindfulness courses and talks have become increasingly popular to the point where I often have to refer enquirers on to colleagues. This would never have been the case ten years ago. 

A search for “Spirituality in Business” brought me to this excellent article by Corinne McLaughlin, co-author of Spiritual Politics and Executive Director of The Center for Visionary Leadership in Washington, DC and San Francisco.

She says “People at all levels in the corporate hierarchy increasingly want to nourish their spirit and creativity. When employees are encouraged to express their creativity, the result is a more fulfilled and sustained workforce. Happy people work harder and are more likely to stay at their jobs. A study of business performance by the highly respected Wilson Learning Company found that 39% of the variability in corporate performance is attributable to the personal satisfaction of the staff.  Spirituality was cited as the second most important factor in personal happiness (after health) by the majority of Americans questioned in a USA Weekend poll, with 47% saying that spirituality was the most important element of their happiness.

Across the country, people increasingly want to bring a greater sense of meaning and purpose into their work life.  They want their work to reflect their personal mission in life.  Many companies are finding the most effective way to bring spiritual values into the workplace is to clarify the company’s vision and mission, and to align it with a higher purpose and deeper commitment to service to both customers and community.”

She also points out that a proliferation of book titles*, reflects a growing movement to bring spiritual values into the workplace. Who hasn’t read Stephen Covey’s books and at least attempted his win-win approach?

Interestingly, 35 years ago when I worked at a large life insurance and pensions company  the Sales Director handed out copies of Og Mandino’s “The Greatest Salesman in the World” to the sales team,  a particularly spiritual perspective on sales and motivation that is an absolute classic. Some were inspired and took it to heart, increasing their personal self-worth and sales a hundred-fold, as the book suggests.

This seems to suggest that there are far more spiritual people out there than care to admit it! Will they dare to ‘come out of the closet’?

Many businesses here  have gone a long way towards integrating personal values of honesty and integrity into their business models. A few have started to think globally and take on social responsibility for the environment, serve the community or helping to create a better world.

Call it what you like – we are living in a different world and after Enron, the banking crisis and all the other unethical issues which have left business in the state it is in, it is time for another way of thinking and being.

Recommended reading:

The Corporate Mystic: A Guidebook for Visionaries with Their Feet on the Ground  by Gay Hendricks

Journey From Head to Heart: Living and Working Authentically  by Nancy Oelklaus

Redefining the Corporate Soul by Alan Cox,

Spirituality in Business: Theory, Practice, and Future Directions by Jerry Biberman and Len Tischler

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Selling with Integrity by Sharon Drew Morgan

And my all time favourite “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino